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Beware of diabetes; it affects the reproduction of mammals. Including humans!

published: 15.12.2017

Press Release

Vestec, 15 December 2017 – Scientists from the BIOCEV Research Center in Vestec near Prague tried to answer the question of the relationship between infertility and diabetes, and how diabetes also affects reproduction in subsequent generations.

Both disorders are among what are known as civilization diseases. From a global perspective, 370 million people suffer from diabetes and their number is increasing. The press refers to this as the third millennium epidemic. Over 15% of European couples of a reproductive age have problems getting pregnant. The male factor accounts for more than 60% of infertility. Infertility in men is caused by a variety of factors – genetic and environmental factors, vascular diseases, and metabolic diseases. This also includes diabetes (diabetes mellitus).

“Long-term studies demonstrate that environmental factors can have a negative effect on reproductive parameters in male mice. We were wondering if diabetes could have a similar effect,” says Jana Pěknicová of the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the Biotechnology Institute of the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic – BIOCEV. “In collaboration with Gabriela Pavlínková (The Laboratory of Molecular Pathogenetics), who has been researching the effects of diabetes on embryos for a long time, we started to test the effect of diabetes on reproduction in a mouse model,” she adds.

A team of authors from both laboratories has found that a diabetic environment has a negative effect on a number of reproductive parameters in mice, especially on the histological picture of the testicle with a change in canal structure and sperm formation (see images B and D), and sperm concentration and quality. These changes were also caused by a change in the expression of the selected genes that are responsible for the creation of quality sperm.

However, scientists were most surprised that diabetes in males showed specific changes that occurred in male reproductive organs and sperm in subsequent generations. This intergenerational transmission indicates epigenetic changes in reproductive organs and sperm. “Therefore, our results point out that improving metabolic health at a reproductive age is necessary not only for women, but also for potential fathers in order to reduce susceptibility to diabetes and infertility in subsequent generations. In the next stage of our research, we will focus on male sperm in patients with diabetes, i.e. sperm quality that is essential for successful reproduction,” adds Jana Pěknicová.

More information is available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504044/pdf/41598_2017_Article_5286.pdf

Key to the images (Histological sections of testicles from mouse models)

Morphology A, B. Immunohistochemistry C, D: in green: “vascular endothelial growth factor” (VEGFA) in spermatogenesis; in red: connexin (Cx43) “gap junctions”, the increase is associated with canal damage.
Verification (A, C); Diabetes in males (B, D) – disorders of canal structure and sperm formation.

The BIOCEV Center (http://www.biocev.eu) is a joint project of two faculties of Charles University and six institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. More than 400 scientists, students, and technicians currently work in the Biotechnology and Biomedical Center in Vestec. Almost one-third of them come from abroad. Their common goal is to obtain detailed knowledge of organisms at the molecular level, inspiring applied research and the development of new drugs and treatments.

Contact: Mgr. Petr Solil, Communications Manager, petr.solil@biocev.eu, tel.: 774 727 981